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East Coast out to keep hold of Sayers Cup.

GAME ON: Ngati Porou East Coast’s Hamuera Moana and Tawhao Stewart attempt to tackle Poverty Bay’s Taine Aupouri. Tomorrow will be the annual Queen’s Birthday weekend match being held in Ruatoria’s Whakarua Park with kick-off at 2.30pm. Picture by Paul Rickard


Tomorrow will be a great occasion in the shared century of rugby between East Coast and Poverty Bay.

On the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, the Queen’s Birthday Weekend fixture will see Civil Project Solutions Poverty Bay and Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast play for the PJ Sayers Cup from 2.30pm.

The venue is Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park, Ruatoria, where on Queen’s Birthday Weekend last year the Coast held the cup aloft for the first time in five years after a 28-23 victory.

And in the Heartland Championship rematch at Rugby Park in Gisborne on October 30, the Sky Blues of NPEC again beat the men in scarlet, this time with a 31-28 scoreline, to lay claim to the Anaru “Skip” Paenga Memorial Tropy for the first time since August 23, 2014, when the Bay won 52-12 in Gisborne.

The Sayers Cup for games played between the Coast and Poverty Bay was first presented in 1951.

Tomorrow’s game will be the 172nd since Game 1 between these rivals, on June 2, 1923, when Poverty Bay were 19-18 victors. Poverty Bay have won 125 games in the fixture, the Coast 41 with five draws.

This will be Poverty Bay head coach Miah Nikora’s first game at the helm.

The Bay have gone with co-captains (Ngatapa skipper Dan Law and Waikohu player-coach Kelvin Smith), as against a captain and vice-captain.

Nikora said: “We want the boys to go out tomorrow, express themselves, and enjoy the occasion.”

A high level of fitness and skill, simple, strong messages, good communication, uncluttered minds, game-sense and nerve: these things constitute a formula for success.

This is one of the best Bay teams to have been selected in some time. It is a strong forward pack, to be anchored at scrum-time by the biggest man in New Zealand first-class rugby. Law is a workhorse who leads by example up front and Smith is general of the backs — one with a nose and an eye for tries.

That last year’s captain in this fixture — Rikki Terekia of OBM, himself in form and proven as a leader of men — should be listed at 16 is a tremendous compliment to forwards 1 to 8.

Nikora, a former first five-eighth, and his former Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 teammate Hosea Gear have a special perspective on both unions’ rugby. Their playing backgrounds and roots are such that the players in their charge will benefit from that experience.

NPEC captain and hooker Perrin Manuel leads a team that may blood two starting forwards. Hikurangi’s Rafael Tuhura has been bracketed with Manaia Nyman of Tihirau Victory Club at lock, while raw-boned Khian Westrupp (Uawa) is bracketed with Ruatoria City captain Jack Richardson at No.8.

In his third year in charge of the Sky Blues, All Black No.1079 Gear now works with a posse to whom the Kaupoi (Cowboy hat for the Sky Blues’ Most Valuable Player, instituted in tribute to the legendary East Coast cowboys) is a rich prize. Their expectations of their own and the team’s performance have risen hand in hand with their improvement individually, as a squad, and better results.

“We’re very happy with the team we’ve selected because while we’ve a lot of boys out, we’ve brought in some good young up-and-coming players — the future of Ngati Porou rugby — who have the potential to go further,” Gear said.

“It’s probably the fittest team we’ve been able to put on the field for some time, if not ever.

“So I’ll be excited to see how a lot of these boys step up. This game will give us a chance to blood players and expose them to a higher level than that of club play.”

Referee tomorrow will be Bay of Plenty’s Andrew Morton, a 31-year-old physical education teacher at Tauranga Boys’ College.

“I’ve heard it’s a very intense rivalry between Poverty Bay and Ngati Porou East Coast — rugby’s a serious business up there, so my mate (NPEC representative No.1105) Richard Apanui tells me,” said Morton, originally of Manchester in the UK.

“I just want to make sure the game flows, and that it’s a good one to watch.”

Like Morton, assistant referees Ben Holt (AR1 — Poverty Bay) and Shirley Mullany-Mato (AR2 — East Coast) will be on first-class debut tomorrow. Also under match-manager LeRoy Kururangi (NPEC chief executive) will be substitution controllers Te Ara Hunt, with NPEC, and Ario Rewi, with Poverty Bay. The time-keeper is Ava Pokoati.

POVERTY BAY: Nehe Papuni (YMP), Shayde Skudder (YMP), Jarryd Broughton (Waikohu), Fletcher Scammell (High School Old Boys), Daniel Law (co-captain, Ngatapa), Adrian Wyrill (Waikohu), Stuart Leach (YMP), Tamanui Hill (HSOB), Mario Counsell (Waikohu), Kelvin Smith (co-captain, Waikohu), Te Peehi Fairlie (YMP), Taine Aupouri (YMP), Tione Hubbard (Waikohu), Matthew Raleigh (Ngatapa), Moses Christie (Waikohu). Reserves, 16-23: Rikki Terekia (OBM), Tulsa Kaui (Waikohu), James Higgins (Ngatapa), Jesse Kapene (YMP), Keanu Taumata (OBM), Rawiri Broughton (YMP), Ricardo Patricio (Ngatapa), Solomoni Rasari (Pirates).

NGATI POROU EAST COAST: Hakarangi Tichborne (Ruatoria City), Perrin Manuel (captain, Waiapu), Myles Lardelli-Muir-Tawa (Uawa), Patrick Allen (Uawa), Rafael Tuhura (Hikurangi)/Manaia Nyman (Tihirau Victory Club), Richard Green (Waiapu), Will Bolingford (Waiapu), Khian Westrupp (Uawa)/ Jack Richardson (Ruatoria City), Hamuera Moana (vice-captain, Waiapu), Ngarangi Haerewa (TVC), Tawhao Stewart (Uawa), Te Manu Herewini (TVC), Tutere Waenga (TVC), Shayden Stevens (Uawa), BJ Sidney (Uawa). Reserves, 16-23: Jody Tuhaka (Waiapu), Semisi Akana (Uawa), Hirini Delamere (TVC), Trent Proffit (Hikurangi), Tuterangi Ngarimu (Ruatoria City)/ Riki Waitoa (Tokararangi), Bless Perese-Elliot (TVC), Rapata Haerewa (Hicks Bay), Kris Palmer (Hikurangi).

by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published June 03, 2022 3:24PM